What Do We Really Know About Consumers’ Health Information Needs?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Digital Differences, Disparities, and Discoveries in the Health Information Space

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Oliver Wyman and Altarum Institute, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, are launching a new effort to examine the consumer health information space. Here, Oliver Wyman Principal Graegar Smith explains the research, and invites decision makers and innovators to participate in this exploration of how the information landscape might function in a more consumer-centered way.

The past few years have seen an explosion of health information resources. From websites to mobile apps, social networks, real-time chat and video platforms, consumers now have access to an abundance of on-demand health information. In addition, healthcare payers and providers are increasingly pushing health information and guidance to patients. 

But the rapid pace of innovation has left little time for thoughtful analysis. Consequently, there is incomplete understanding of whether the resources are accessible and responsive to consumers’ interests; or if they meet the needs of all consumers – particularly vulnerable populations.

To address this knowledge gap, Oliver Wyman and the Altarum Institute, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, are initiating an important new study of the health information space. The novel, multi-disciplinary project is comprised of three significant efforts.

The first is consumer-focused research that will examine:

  • How various population segments currently access health information.
  • Consumers’ motivations for accessing (or not) available health information, examined by population segment.
  • Whether current health information resources provide positive support.
  • If there are health and healthcare issues that consumers believe are not addressed by available health information resources.

The research will focus particular attention on low-income populations, the uninsured, non-English speakers, and caregivers. The goal will be to gain an understanding of their health information needs and determine if those needs are reflected in current resources and tools. This will be compared with findings from low- and middle-income consumers and Medicare populations in order to find similarities and differences in needs and utilization.

Preliminary results from interviews and focus groups will be available in late-March with results from a national survey available in late-June.

The study also includes an in-depth examination of the health information landscape. Through interviews with a cross section of key organizations – including insurers, providers, employers, consumer engagement companies, healthcare information companies, and federal and state agencies – the project will assess stakeholders’ perceptions of consumer need, and explore their current market focus and future investment priorities.

We will engage a variety of organizations across product-development stages to understand:

  • Why and how various information sources were built and deployed.
  • Their sense of these sources’ success and impact.
  • The legal, medical, ethical, and economic considerations or constraints that may have limited the type of sources created.
  • Future outlook and investment activity, in regards to development of new information sources, as well as the means they are delivered.

Lastly, by sharing the findings of the consumer survey and market research, we hope to foster dialogue around the information needs of various consumer segments; and define the divide between market perceptions and consumers’ actual needs. Together with Altarum and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we aim to empower industry decision makers and innovators with a deeper understanding of gaps – and opportunities – so they can direct investment toward building better health information for all consumer segments.

As a practice, we are dedicated to promoting positive change in healthcare, and we are leaders in value-based, consumer-centric healthcare. Overcoming information disparity is a pressing challenge that requires cross-industry sharing and collaboration, and we are excited about our role in this important project.

To learn more about participating in the project, contact Research@oliverwyman.com.

What Do We Really Know About Consumers’ Health Information Needs?

All postings to the Health Policy Forum (whether from employees or those outside the Institute) represent the views of the individual authors and/or organizations and do not necessarily represent the position, interests, strategy, or opinions of Altarum Institute. Altarum is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. No posting should be considered an endorsement by Altarum of individual candidates, political parties, opinions or policy positions.



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